John Lee, Hong Kong’s former security chief, was confirmed as the city’s next chief executive with 99 percent of the votes from last Sunday’s election. Lee, a career police officer who rose to the highest echelons of the Hong Kong government ran unopposed in what critics call a “political farce.” As a hardliner approved by pro-China elites to carry out the orders of Beijing, Lee is expected to continue the assaults on political freedoms and civil liberties that have progressively eliminated space for dissent in Hong Kong, threatening its reputation as an international hub for commerce.
Sunday’s polls marked the first chief executive “elections” since Beijing’s overhaul of the city’s electoral system last year to ensure only “patriots” could run for public office in Hong Kong. The sweeping changes dramatically curtailed democratic representation in Hong Kong’s political system, reversing the democratic gains the city has made since its return to Chinese rule in 1997.
Though Beijing has swayed the outcome of previous elections for Hong Kong’s top job by directing votes toward its favored candidate, there was not even the illusion of a choice this year. Lee was handpicked by Beijing to be the sole candidate in a contest decided by a committee of 1,500 pro-Beijing political elites, or less than 0.02 percent of the city’s population of 7.5 million people. Under the new rules, the electors were also vetted by a panel chaired by Lee himself—a process designed to root out people deemed to be insufficiently loyal to the Hong Kong government. In the end, only eight people cast a “non-support” vote for Lee on Sunday.